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Sharing a world both clean and not

  • 03 August 2022
It's odd that COVID-19, which has reportedly claimed 11,961 Australian lives and 6.4 million globally, has largely become a non-issue post-federal election and pre-Victorian state election.

Politicians listen to and then reject advice from healthcare experts. Some of the re-emerging masses of commuters choose not to wear masks despite them being mandated on public transport.Shoulders are shrugged at the news of yet another family member, friend, neighbour or workmate who is ‘off the mark’ now, suffering through various COVID symptoms with their first, second or even third infection. It is easy to become numb to the staggering statistics that ABC News presents us with each day.

Vaccines have come and gone as a much-vaunted source of salvation. We know that vaccines help as well as how severely we are impacted if we become infected. But we also know that vaccines are not a silver bullet against the virus.

We recognise the possibility of re-infection with COVID, even as we suffer through a disturbingly virulent flu season — the worst in a decade, according to a phlegmatic friend of mine who is a pharmacist in Melbourne. Re-infection is perhaps no longer seen as a grim prospect for vaccinated folks:

Just as seatbelts and airbags in cars save many lives, but don’t prevent injury in all car accidents, vaccines help prevent serious disease and death from COVID-19 in the great majority of cases, but not every single case. All of the vaccines available in Australia are proven to prevent hospitalisations from COVID-19 in 71–98 per cent of COVID-19 cases. Reducing severe illness and death so significantly means that, for most vaccinated people, being reinfected with COVID-19 will be a mild and short-lived event.

The rhetoric is reassuring, but the fact is we don’t fully know the long-term side effects of the disease or potentially, the vaccines. And more recent research has found that, with repeated infections, the risk of experiencing ‘long COVID’ actually increases, with its debilitating impact on multiple organs and systems and its potential to persist for many months.Yikes.

Our complacency misses the rather sharpish end of the stick: COVID is close to taking pole position as the leading cause of death in Australia; Menzies Health Institute Queensland professor Nigel McMillan thinks we aren’t taking it seriously enough:

It will outpace cardiac coronary heart disease by the end of the year if we keep going at this rate … We haven't had an infectious disease be the number one